Strategy in a game starts before you put models on the table. Apocalypse games add another dimension to this, as you not only have to consider what army lists will consist of (both yours and your opponents–either of which could have virutally any unit in the game), but you also have to take into consideration the notion of Strategic Assets.
In an Apoc game, each side may pick one strategic asset per the player in the larger team, and may receive additional assets if they have less points (or if they purchase formations which grant them). We typically just balance our teams before we start a game, so each player gets to choose one asset for free. They have to coordinate with their team though, because each asset can only be taken once per side. The exception to this rule is that if you have a formation/datasheet which grants you access to a specific strategic asset, you can duplicate that asset when purchasing one for your army. Assets are broken down in the game by several different cateogories: tactical, battlefield, front line, and support, though there really doesn’t seem to be a point to doing this–as it has no bearing on the game.
The bulk of these assets can be found within the Apocalypse rulebook on pages 186-189, but you can also find a number of additional assets (most of which are racial specific) in the Apocalypse Reload book on pages 66-71. Lastly, units throughout both of these books, as well as other Apocalypse datasheets found on GW’s site, as well as within White Dwarfs, and people’s homemade creations, can grant strategic assets, or similar rules (but pay special attention as to who is affected by these!).
When Team Bug got together to count up our models, we took that evening to also glue together broken pieces, assemble some misc. items we knew we’d need for the game, and also consider our options for Strategic Assets.
First of all, we’d already gotten a few assets by using Apocalypse formations:
- Strategic Redeployment (on steriods) – This was given to us with the Kraken Tendril formation. Redeployment seems like a really powerful card, but since we play on such small boards, it typically isn’t worthwhile. 12″ away from an enemy really means you’re down to almost nothing. The good news for us is that this variation of the asset allows you to move to anywhere as long as it’s not within 3″ of an enemy model. This would allow us to sneak in and contest objectives on the last turn.
- Tremor Zone (not a normal asset) – With the Subterranean Swarm, all of our Raveners could charge the turn they arrive–additionally, they’d cause a pinning test to anything nearby. The goal here was to drop a lictor or Death Leaper in, and them have this squad hit exactly where we wanted–then charge things that were so foolish as not to be hiding in tanks.
- Without Number (not a normal asset) – We had 120 gaunts that would keep coming back to life after dying. Their goal was to provide an initial screen, and then come back and hold objectives in our deployment zone. Since all of our big bugs would be charging forward to get to combat, we’d have nothing in the back to hold our objectives. This was our answer to that.
So, we looked at options that complimented our force for our four free assets. Assets we’d consider using fell into one of three categories: Anti-Tank, Deployment Tricks, or Tyranid Flavor. Here’s a list of what we were thinking when we went through the options the first time:
- Careful Planning – To allow us to come on faster. Since we declared that you had to deploy half of your force, and we knew that the other team wanted to go first to blast our Hierophants to smithereens, we could use this ability to keep them off the board. When they came on, they could move on and shoot up their tanks with impunity.
- Flank March – An obvious choice for an assaulty army. Almost too obvious though, as it’s easy to counter with by stretching lines of infantry across the back of the board, by using the “Ambush” special power, or with the Catachan ‘Death Trap’ Ambush Patrol (despite the fact that Hardened Veterans don’t exist anymore, Veteran squads seem an obvious stand-in)
- Tunnels – Very cool and flavorful, but you can’t assault out of them on the turn you arrive. 😦
- Blind Barrage – We had this used against us in a previous game, and it proved to be amazing. One turn of stopping key units from firing really can make a huge difference in a game. Alternately, we could use it to protect outflanking genestealers should they arrive on a board-edge without something to charge…
- Vortex Grenade – An easy way to dispatch tanks–if you can get close enough. The ‘Nid codex does only have two IC’s capable of deploying such a grenade though: Alpha Warriors & the Parasite of Mortrex. If only it could be given to Death Leaper…
- Orbital Bombardment – Since we don’t get templates, this is one of the only ways to get some big-badda-boom in our ranks.
- Scheduled Bombardment – As above, but you get three of them when and where you want them! The bad news is you have to be pretty good at guessing where you do.
- Precision Strike – Hitting on 2+ would make for a great Titan killer. Since each Hierophant has 18 strength 10 shots, this asset could almost guarantee to fell a titan in a single turn.
- Jammers – Everyone hates being told to shut up, and this is a rule-based reason to be able to do just that to your opponents. It also gets them confused at the start. We ultimately passed on this one because, while it would be good, it makes for a stressful deployment and I feel it sets the wrong tone for a friendly game.
- Replacements – An obviously powerful choice–despite the fact that we errata’d it for this game to only work during the first 3 turns (as the unit is placed into strategic reserves, and not into normal reserves). The clear reason to use it is to get a Gargantuan creature back, but we thought that was overpowered, so skipped the choice completely.
- Hammer Blow – A potentially devastating Titan killer.
- They’re All Around Us! – Flavorful ways of making the board more Tyranid themed
- Spore Chimneys – Not very good, but since I had the models, another way to add flavor to the battle.
We decided on using the following four:
- Scheduled Bombardment – On a relatively small table, three Apoc templates would be easy to hit something with. Our goal here was tied to spore mine deployment. We dropped mines in away from the places where we intended to throw our barrages, figuring they would deploy their troops away from the spores. We also didn’t put spores near the edges of the board, to encourage them to place models within charge distance for our outflankers. Ultimately, the spore mines had very little effect on the game, as most died uneventfully on the first turn, but the bombardment proved to be quite handy.
- They’re All Around Us! – Sure, all of the Tyranid only powers in Apocalypse Reload are lacking in punch, but they are cool and add flavor to the game. The team loved the idea behind this one, as it set a tone of a Tyranid infested world. Though I didn’t think it would do all that much during the game, at least five terminators fell to this little asset, as well as 3-4 tanks were immobolized.
- Blind Barrage – The hope was we’d be able to seize first turn and blast a whole through the middle of the Imperial force. Then, we could use a blind barrage to either cut them off from their supporters, or to protect our outflanking genestealers/deep-striking Trygon formation when they came in. Instead, we wound up with 2nd turn, and used it purely defensively. It did prove helpful though.
- Hammerblow – D3 StrD hits on a super heavy? How is that not awesome. Our last card ultimately came down to a pick between this and Precision Strike, but we opted for this–as it would surely topple their Titan. The day before the game though, I noticed that the asset worked only against a random super heavy OR GARGANTUAN CREATURE, and our odds of hitting the Titan were a lot worse than hitting one of our own models. In a last minute pow-wow, we switched this to “Careful Planning.“
Careful Planning turned out to cause some issues though. For one thing, we didn’t notice that this was only allowed for a single player. Since we purchased our army as a giant force that we’d all play, there was no easy way to apply this to just one person. It was an honest mistake though, and our opponents let us use it across the board. The second issue with the asset was that one player believed that reserves were to come on at the begining of the movement phase–and though Gargantuan creatures can move over friendly models, they can’t end up on top of them–and there just wasn’t any room to bring our big bugs on. In hindsight, this doesn’t seem to be the case though. On page #23 of the Apoc book, the rule states:
“The player must state which units he will commit at the start of the turn before movement takes place.”
and then goes on to say:
“Units that are committed to the battle must enter play anywhere along the table eges in their side’s deploment zone, moving onto the table in the Movement phase.”
So, it sounds like we only screwed the pooch once on that asset–which is good. I really felt bad when we had to “cheat” twice because we weren’t aware of the rules, but it was a friendly game, and we settled it with a dice-off: no hard feelings.
Team Viktim Considerations
The other thing we considered were the Strategic Assets that our opponent might use, and how we could possibly deal with them. The most devastating assets we could see were:
- Ambush – Countered by simply not taking Flank March
- Vortex Grenade – Countered by surrounding our Gargs with expendable gaunts
- Null Field Generator – No real counter to this. This would’ve been devastating, had they chosen to use it–but luckily they didn’t. Our plan here was only to shoot the crap out of it with our bio-titans if it showed up.
- Disruptor Beacons – Which could hinder our outflankers, flank marches (should we have chosen to use it), and the Trygon’s formation. Again, there’s no real counter to it, other than to ignore the side, hope for the best, or kill it. In our game, we relied upon Ymgarl’s to take it out.
- Any of the Chaos Demon Powers (From Reload) – Well, Except Major Possession. Particularly we feared the Tzeentch and Slaanesh versions–but ultimately, we could do nothing about them if they fielded those.
- Replacements – Particularly nasty when used on a really expensive Titan. We did figure we had enough oompf to take down the Titan twice if necessary–especially when we were depending on Hammerblow. We did talk to them before the game though, and they had the same feelings on the cheesiness of using this particular asset with a Titan, so we felt safe there.
What they actually took? Disruptor Beacons & Shield Generator (both of which Cole con’d people into using for Baneblade defense), Legion Relic, Vortex Grenade, On My Coordinates!, Scheduled Bombardment, Defense Lines, and Obstacles. The astute mathmaticians out there will see that they had more than four–three of them came from taking the “Imperial Shield” Infantry Company (wow!), and an extra was purchased for 250 points before the game. By and large, I don’t think their choices helped them all that much, with a few notable exceptions:
- Scheduled Bombardment: This took out a bunch of bugs two out of the three turns it went off. Then again, their entire army took out a bunch of bugs every turn. More templates never hurt though, do they?
- Disruptor Beacons: They actually had minimal impact in the game, but they would’ve worked nicely to stop flank marches from coming up the rear. Ironically though, the very thing this asset was chosen to protect (those seemingly unkillable big guns of Cole’s baneblades) were really enough of a deterant on their own to keep us away from that corner of the board.
So, that was the thinking behind our Asset choices. I would love it if Team Viktim/Turnover would give some input on what they were thinking when they chose their assets and what they thought went well or poorly in regards to them.
Image from http://www.realize-solutions.com.